I have to admit, despite some of the programming choices made by
Perhaps the sweetest thing on RTN’s lineup is the late evening weekday schedule: WSB shows The Rockford Files at , followed by The Alfred Hitchcock Hour at 11, Night Gallery at and Alfred Hitchcock Presents closing up shop. Despite the fact that I have all the Hitchcock Hour shows on DVD (obtained from a fellow who, I’ll only say, writes a good many books on OTR) I’d forgotten how truly entertaining these shows are; one of my particular favorites—based on a short story penned by Robert “Psycho” Bloch—aired the other night, “Water’s Edge” (10/19/64), which stars John Cassavetes as an ex-con who travels to a podunk burg in search of his deceased ex-cellmate’s spouse (Ann Sothern). The two of them go on a hunt for a missing $56,000 her hubby and his partner stole in a payroll robbery—and since I don’t want to give too much away I’ll only say that if you’re familiar with the classic radio play “Three Skeleton Key” “Edge” will creep you out.
My only nitpick about this schedule is that I wish they had switched the timeslots for Gallery and Presents so that I could hit the hay a half-hour earlier. It’s not that I’m not a fan of Gallery—they did some really shuddery episodes on that series, and also some moving dramatic pieces like “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar” (01/20/71) and “The Messiah on Mott Street” (12/15/71)—but in syndicating the series they had to whittle down some of the longer shows with a chainsaw, rendering them completely incoherent. (They also padded out the syndication package with edited episodes of the 1972 supernatural series The Sixth Sense, which even on its best day couldn’t rise above the worst Gallery installment.) A sort of supernatural Love, American Style, Night Gallery plays much better in its original hour-long format—hopefully the long overdue second season DVD release will stick with that arrangement.
I’m also enjoying the Wagon Train repeats (I wrote a post about the show’s available public domain episode back in the Salon days, in which I came to realize that it’s a show I took for granted) as well as Laredo; I watched a Laredo episode entitled “Jinx”(12/02/65) in which I had difficulty placing the actress playing the lead (an Indian outlaw, with apologies to Tim McGraw)…but the moment she spoke, I knew right off she was Shelley Morrison of Will & Grace fame. (Most people indeed know her as Rosario, Karen Walker’s feisty Salvadoran maid—but real TV boomers like us haven’t forgotten her role as Sister Sixto on The Flying Nun—aka “Sister Mary Malaprop.”) Albert Salmi, one of the truly great but neglected character actors was in this one, too, as a new Texas Ranger recruit who’s convinced that everything he touches turns to shit.
I’ve also learned, to my delight, that RTN’s straightened out whatever problems they were having with The Bold Ones; I caught a good one yesterday afternoon, “The Crowd Pleaser” (11/02/69), a Lawyers episode starring Mel Torme as a murderer who beats the rap and lets his admission of guilt slip out in the presence of his attorneys (Burl Ives, Joseph Campanella and James Farentino). The three men are bound by confidentiality rules not to reveal this privileged information…but things get even more hairy when an innocent man (Georg Stanford Brown) is charged with Torme’s crime. It’s a very good example of what made this critically-acclaimed, Emmy-winning series so watchable and while I don’t deny The Velvet Fog has incredible talent, he always left me cold as an actor so he’s very successful here as a complete wanker. (I feel the same way about Mickey Rooney and Harry Connick, Jr, too—extremely talented personalities but not individuals I’d stay up to watch at four in the morning.)
There are a few disappointments regarding RTN—some of which are my own, and some that belong to the channel. Despite my cherished memories of staying up in the wee a.m. hours when Bachelor Father was on CBN, it’s revealed itself to be a pretty bland sitcom offering—and I don’t really think the show hit its stride until John Forsythe’s niece (Noreen Corcoran) started getting a little older…if you know what I mean, and I think you do. They’re still running the public domain Jack Benny shows and while this really isn’t such a big deal I’m curious as to what will happen when they run out. (“Ferchrissake, get me Mayfield on the line!”) Contrast this with Dragnet—which started out with the black-and-white P.D. segments but have now settled into the first season of the 1960s series revival. (Maybe this exposure will spur NBC/Universal to launch follow-up seasons on DVD; I’ve even been practicing my Joe Friday head-nod, if it will help.)
The biggest disappointment of all, however, is that they’re still dipping into the Leave It to Beaver reruns to spackle the gaping weekend hole of the missing Run for Your Life. Doc Quatermass was kind enough to remind me that the series’ original pilot was a segment of The Kraft Suspense Theatre, so I’m now betting Rick will see this show before I do. Well, maybe I’ll luck out this afternoon and it will finally make its debut…but if you hear someone yelling “Khaaaaannnn!!!” from the direction of Clarke County around four-ish…that’ll be me.